Life, Lessons, and Learning in Lviv, Ukraine

By: Karin Scott, AfG Program Director

Hi there! I’m so honored to be representing Allowance for Good (AfG) in Lviv, Ukraine over the next two weeks. This partnership between the Society Initiatives Institute (SII) and AfG came about through the Professional Fellows Program at the American Council for International Education. Taras, Founder of SII, came to Chicago in May to work with AfG through this program. You can read more about his experience at AfG here

As part of this program, AfG had the opportunity to participate in a mutual exchange trip to Lviv. Our program includes presenting to youth, leading conversation with members of the civic space, and working alongside the SII team. I’m excited to share my experience with you all!

Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet

Upon arrival in Lviv, I was greeted by members of the SII team, Taras and Viktor. As well as a Peace Corps volunteer working at SII, Kendra. They as well as another SII member, Vitaliy, gave me a walking tour of the Lviv city centre. The area includes monuments representing the rich history of Lviv, many grand cathedrals dating back to the 14th century, cafes touting the local coffee-centered culture, ornate government offices, and cobblestone streets that are a trap for uncoordinated tourists (like myself).

Part of the group at Oriyana

My first full day in Lviv began in the Sykhiv district, the home district of Taras and where SII runs many of it’s projects. We began at Oriyana, the school where Taras attended elementary and secondary school. Thehalls were filled with children between the ages of 7 and 17 years old. Secondary school students filled the auditorium totaling around eighty. Taras kicked off our presentation by having the students introduce themselves in English. Then I gave a presentation about American culture and Chicago, which included pictures of everything from July 4th fireworks to Chicago hot dogs to American football. I was able to give my presentation in English without translation because Ukrainian students learn English starting when they are seven years old. 

After the presentation at the school, Taras led me in a tour of Sykhiv. Surrounded by Soviet-style apartment buildings, Taras explained that Sykhiv was built as a place for working people to live, similar to suburbs in the United States, where people commute into the city. Today, Sykhiv is often referred to as a “sleeping district” where people just sleep because they work in other districts. Thus, there are not many things to do or places to see in the district. SII wants to create a positive civic identity for Sykhiv, rather than the passive “sleeping district” identity that it is known for currently.

Sykhiv recently revitalized their large public park as way to create a space for Sykhiv residents to enjoy and to bring other residents of Lviv to Sykhiv. The park includes a main path as well as open spaces to host community events. SII recently held a festival, Sykhiv Fest To Go, in this area that was very well attended by Sykhiv residents. More activities and festivals have been planned for this space in the spring when outdoor activities can resume. On the edge of this park is a large cathedral deemed Pope John Paul II because of his visit to the cathedral in 2003, a very important moment for the Sykhiv community.

Top: Art piece at the Crimean bakery

Bottom: Mural  by SII to represent the community and police working together

After touring the park, we visited the popular Crimean bakery in the area, which was started and operated by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Crimea. Many of the baked goods are traditional Crimean dishes, which of course we had to taste. One was a pastry filled with sheep meat and onions, which was savory and delicious. Another was a traditional cheesecakes made with marshmallow cream and caramel. The smell of freshly baked bread made me want to stay there all day. On the wall there was an artistic figure of the Crimea region that reads “Crimea is Ukraine.” According to the International Displaced Monitor Centre there are approximately 1.4 million IDPs in Ukraine.

Our final stop was Dzerelo, a rehabilitation center for youth with mental and physical disabilities. The facility was opened in 1993 and is committed to consultation, rehabilitation treatment, education, and counseling of both children with disabilities and their families. SII has partnered with Dzerelo to launch an Inclusive Friendly project. This campaign is to spread awareness about the need for inclusive spaces in Ukraine. Most businesses, restaurants, schools, residences, and other buildings are not accessible for individuals who are differently abled.

At Dzerelo, Taras hosted a conversation about his time as a Professional Fellow in Chicago and the project he launched as a result of this program. The program will occur in three stages, with the goal of creating a strong civic society and positive identity in Sykhiv. Other members of civic society were present, including individuals from Better Sykhiv and Group 100. Taras used the examples of Chicago neighborhoods he visited to explain this concept of civic identity. He explained how Andersonville, Edgewater, Chinatown, and Ukrainian Village utilize their unique identities to make their citizens proud and attract visitors. Taras led the group in a brainstorm about possibilities and weaknesses in Sykhiv. In small groups we brainstormed ways to overcome some of these weaknesses and as a result create a positive Sykhiv identity. I will be continuing this conversation with the SII team by leading a workshop about Asset Based Community Development.

Wall at youth center - "Love what you do, do what you love!"

On the second day I worked in the SII office with the team and met two more members, Anna and Olya.We prepped for the team retreat, which will occur on Thursday. In the afternoon we visited the Lviv Regional Youth Center where I presented about philanthropy and social responsibility. The audience discussed the challenges of achieving social responsibility in Lviv, as this is a new concept for the community. Other topics of discussion included corporate giving, how to educate others about philanthropy, and where to find resources about philanthropy best practices.

As you can see, my days in Lviv will be full of tours, learning, discussion, and connection. I’m looking forward to sharing more in the days to come!

Building Strong Communities

By: Meredith
Meredith is a participant in the Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy: Changemakers class.

Asset-based community development is when groups in a community work to change and further expand their society. This development could be technological, numeral, or emotional. Asset-based community development demonstrates a community coming together to make a bigger and more significant impact. Groups include residents, voluntary associations, institutions, physical assets, economic activity, and stories. The mapping activities we did in class helped show how every group in a community works together. The map showed us that even though we may be a part of completely different societies, the same characteristics can be used in each society to create change. Mapping out our own communities and the different ones that we were a part of showed the class how much we all had in common. Most of our communities were not the same but served the same purpose for ourselves. It also showed us how many skills we have in common that we use everyday in our different communities.

Building strong communities is very important to the development of a society. Without strong communities our world would not be as unified as it is now. Strong communities create order and success that create change and advance the world faster. Strong communities consist of strong leaders and accepting members. Although some people may have more of a say or a bigger impact on final decisions, without all of the components of a community, nothing would function smoothly. Coming from the On The Table dinner discussion, our minds were much more open to the different types of communities in the world and how many of them function with and without the same characteristics. Something I took from the On The Table dinner was that even though some communities may have different levels of development, they all find happiness in their own way. No community needs electricity or running water or huge houses to have happiness. A community creates happiness based on their own needs and things they find essential to their life. This stood out to me because there are many places in the world that function perfectly well and happily, even though they don't have as many luxury items as developed cities do.

Lessons from Foundation Leaders

By: Will
Will is a participant in Allowance for Good's Winter 2015 Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy: Explorers class.

This week at ELP, we were lucky enough to talk to a few leaders in the philanthropy world today. Two members of the McCormick Foundation and one from the Jack Miller Family Foundation joined us to discuss their work. We learned the origins of each group, and what they strive to fix through their philanthropy. Programs run by the groups varied immensely, and the speakers were passionate while discussing the diverse initiatives focused on Judaism  medical research, civics, education, democracy, aid for veterans, and more.

As students, it was interesting to hear from two separate foundations each trying to give meaningful grants. The McCormick Foundation is substantially larger than the Jack Miller Family Foundation, but both groups utilized similar grant-making policies. Personally, it was unexpected to hear just how driven each group was by their founders. For the McCormick foundation, they are still driven by the values from about 150 years ago. Jack Miller, who is still alive today, also plays a large role in crafting his foundation’s initiatives. 

Later in the class, we were invited to ask a few questions of our panel. I asked the first question, which was definitely a tough one to answer. I inquired as to how their foundations measure the success of their grants after giving them. The answers varied, but provided nice insight into how decisions are made in foundations. Suzanne Knoll from the Jack Miller Family Foundation noted that their group attempts to give grantees the tools to measure success on their own. They also try and use any quantitative data available to find the impact of the programs. The representatives from the McCormick Foundation also commented on the difficulty of analyzing success in philanthropy, and what their efforts have been. 

There were a few more questions posed before the end of class. For example, one student asked which of the programs each panel member was most proud of. The unique answers displayed their passion for helping others, and some background for what drives them. Unfortunately we ran out of time a tad early, but the chance to hear from these friendly and intelligent guest speakers was amazing. A friend and I also got to ride down in the elevator with one of the speakers, so it was nice to speak a little bit longer with him. I loved getting to know the philosophy behind each foundation’s work, and I’m looking forward to next week’s class.

Will writes, "I am a Catalyst for Good because everyone deserves the right to be their own catalyst."

Passionate Youth Building Awareness, Taking Action

By: Kate
Kate is participating in Allowance for Good's spring 2014 Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy: Explorers program.     

One issue that I am passionate about is domestic violence and abuse. I am passionate about this topic because I was exposed to this through my swim club and through my church. I swim for the YWCA Flying Fish in Evanston. While this is a completive swim program, it is unique because the pool is located in the YWCA which houses displaced women and their families. Every year our team raises money for the YWCA through a ‘swim marathon’. For the swim marathon we swim as many laps as possible within one hour. We each raise money by collecting donations for each lap we swim. This year the Flying Fish raised almost $100,000 and it is all donated to the YWCA to help the abused women and their families. I have been doing this for the past eight years. During this time I have learned about domestic violence and abuse.

I also experienced the affects of domestic violence and abuse this past winter while doing volunteer work for my church. A few friends and I volunteered to work at the Night Ministries in downtown Chicago. We helped serve food to the homeless and less fortunate. Before we started, the person in charge told us that some of the women we were going serve are victims of domestic violence. This really hit home when a young woman came through the line with tears in the corners of her eyes. I could tell immediately that something was wrong but it was not my place to ask too many questions. When she went through the line my dad asked her if he could do anything for her, but she shook her head no. Just from looking at her tear stricken face, I could tell something was very wrong and it made my mind wonder with questions. Was she a victim of domestic abuse? Did she have anyone she could talk to? I was only there to give her a warm meal, but I wished there was a way I could do more. 

From my involvement in both of these organizations, I have had some exposure to domestic violence and abuse. However, I’d like to become more involved. To build onto the work I have already accomplished I can look into volunteering at the YWCA to help these women. This issue inspires me because I do not think it is something anyone should have to go through. I also think that people everywhere should become more educated about this issue so we can try and prevent it from happening again.

Kate, left, discusses leadership styles with AfG Executive Director Elizabeth Newton at an Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy seminar.

Beyond Borders: My Role as a Global Citizen

By: Caroline
Caroline is participating in Allowance for Good's autumn 2013 Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy program. 

Last week's session on global citizenship was really inspiring. Before the class, I really didn't see myself as a "global citizen"---I saw myself as an seventeen-year-old American girl. I knew that as an American (as with any ethnicity or culture), I tended to focus on the problems that were evident in the US or, at the very most, world problems that affected the US. It's a very narrow-minded approach especially in this day and age, where one event can spark a change around the world. But in another sense, it seemed the typical response from any person as most people are more concerned with how things will affect them and not the world in general. 

However, during class, we discussed our obligations as global citizens. That whether we want to accept it or not, we affect others all over the world by our actions, and it's our job to be socially aware of that. For example, when we toss out our extra food after a meal, it affects people in an area where hunger might be an issue. Instead of wasting that food, it could have been donated to families that could really benefit from having that food in their home. Which brings me to my next point: as global citizens, we also have an obligation to give back to others because there are others who give something to us whether that's their time, money, etc. We are a part of a larger context, not just one country, state, city---we are a part of huge community, and it's our job to help one another in that community. 

One example of how I am a global citizen that I didn't recognize before the class is that I volunteer at a fair trade store in Evanston called Ten Thousand Villages. The idea is that artisans in developing countries who can't make a decent living in their own country are able to sell their crafts through Ten Thousand Villages. TTV is then able to take the money made from these crafts and send it back to those families. It's amazing because it really provides families with financial security, which they otherwise would not be able to find if they continued to try to sell their crafts only within their community. The other neat thing about TTV is that even if all crafts are not sold, those families are still paid in full. I volunteer at TTV to help promote awareness of fair trade and to help assist customers. So as I global citizen, I am able to give back to many families so that they don't have to worry that they won't be able to take care of themselves financially. I know that in another country, I am putting a smile on someone's face and money in their pocket. Volunteering has been a moving experience also because I realize that I have the resources to help make the world a better place. I know that not everyone is in the same position I am to help others, but because I am, I want to take advantage of that as much as possible.